Modeling and Characterization of a Thermally Controlled Iodine Feeding System for Electric Propulsion Applications
Dipartimento di Ingegneria Civile e Industriale, Università di Pisa, Largo Lucio Lazzarino, 56122 Pisa, Italy
Dipartimento di Chimica e Chimica Industriale, Università di Pisa, Via Giuseppe Moruzzi 13, 56124 Pisa, Italy
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Aerospace 2020, 7(2), 10; https://doi.org/10.3390/aerospace7020010
Received: 21 October 2019 / Revised: 14 January 2020 / Accepted: 15 January 2020 / Published: 23 January 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Electric Propulsion)
Iodine is considered as a feasible alternative to xenon as a propellant for electric propulsion systems, thanks to its good propulsive performance, high availability, and high storage density. However, as iodine is stored in solid state at ambient temperature, current state-of-the-art propellant management systems are not suitable to be used with it. Moreover, due to its high reactivity, iodine imposes requirements on material-compatibility, hindering the use of mass flow measurement and control systems typically used with other propellants. The architecture of a controlled iodine feeding system for low power (200 W class) ion and Hall effect thrusters is presented and the resulting prototype is described. It consists of a sublimation assembly whose temperature is used to control the tank pressure, a normally-closed ON-OFF valve, and a thermal throttle to perform the fine control of the mass flow rate. A 1D thermal-fluid model concerning the vapor generation in the tank, and its evolution along the different components is detailed. The thermal throttle model has been experimentally verified using air as a working fluid. The model results agree with the measurements of the verification tests in the hypothesis of the presence of an extended region at the entrance of the pipe where the laminar flow velocity and temperature profiles are not fully developed (known as entry flow region). Finally, the system is experimentally characterized and the model of the full system is calibrated using experimental measurements. The calibration shows that the thermal throttle flow presents an entry flow region, that the viscosity is correctly modeled, and that there is a difference between the measured tank temperature and the effective sublimation temperature.